Google Duplex: Is Google Taking It Too Far?

When Google showed the world two demos at Google I/O 2018, the world was stunned. When I watched it live, I thought it was an April fools prank that came a month late. If you haven’t watched the video, I linked it below. You will probably need to watch it to understand the rest of the blog post. It’s only 4 minutes.

In the first video, the assistant was easily able to converse with the receptionist to book a haircut at 10am. In the second video, the assistant was able to understand the accent of the restaurant receptionist and was able to determine that the restaurant does not take reservations for four people.

Why this is Revolutionary

After the first demo, Sundar Pichai (The CEO of Google) listed machine learning, natural language understanding, deep learning and text to speech as the key technologies that were able to create this type of artificial intelligence. So basically, Google had to incorporate almost all of its breakthroughs to make this happen. We have seen or used the Google Assistant, Apple Siri or Amazon Alexa to get detailed and focused answers back from our question. Since then, we have established that it doesn’t output any human sounds while it talks. Sounds like “Um” or “Mm-hmm”. But what makes these two demos quite outstanding is that it included these sounds. It also included an increase in pitch when it is asking a question, to make it sound more human. Not once did the receptionist question the authenticity of the caller. It sounded real. It sounded like an exact conversation that two people will have when booking a hair appointment. Google trained their machine learning and artificial intelligence software to handle all types of people and possibilities of where the conversation might head.

acastro_180510_1777_google_assistant_0003.0[1]The Controversy

Despite all of the positive responses it received, Google’s latest ambitious project sparked a lot of doubts and controversy, especially when ethics are concerned. Should we be knowing when the Google Assistant is calling? Should we react differently to these types of technologies? Is this taking A.I too far? (Also if you haven’t read my artificial intelligence post, you can read it here). All of these are valid questions and we have the right to ask them. But if we expect to have these types of technologies rolling out soon, why do we overreact and prevent ourselves from appreciating these types of advancements, especially when it is related to an artificial intelligence? Google Duplex is one of these breakthroughs in the technology ecosystem. We want it in our lives but we do not know how to accept it and use it for our well being without it going out of control.

Another question which I mentioned above is, “Should we know if Google Assistant is calling.” My answer is no. There are two reasons.

First, when talking to an assistant, we tend to talk with statements rather than questions especially when wanting to know something specific. An example of this is when I say to Google Home, “Weather,” rather than asking, “What is the weather?” Another example is when I ask it to check a flight time. I tend to say the airline and the flight number rather than asking “What is the status of this flight,” We assume that if we are more direct with the question, it will have a better chance of understanding us. So if the Google Assistant was to tell the recipient that it is the Google Assistant calling, the conversation will sound more direct as the human on the other side will try to speak in a way so that the assistant can understand them. Google does not want that. We don’t want to speak like that either. 

Secondly, would you continue listening to a phone call if the first thing that the caller says is, “Hi, this is the Google Assistant calling”? Probably not. I would assume that it is a robot trying to sell me something rather than trying to reserve a table for the night. So unless Google is planning to tell every business that their robot might call, more people will hang up rather than trying to hear out the rest of the sentence.

If we expect to have these types of technologies rolling out soon, why do we overreact and prevent ourselves from appreciating these types of advancements, especially when it is related to an artificial intelligence?

Conclusion

We reached a point when Google can make a phone call for you. That sounds small but in next year’s developer conference, what is the next command? Will it be, “Hey Google, drive me to work,” or, “Hey Google, manage my bank transactions?” The possibilities are endless. At what point in the future is the Google Assistant talking to itself? In that case, will the phone call be dead? Most people think that an A.I is a supercomputer that is hidden away in a basement of a large building. They forget that it can be as simple as talking to a small, puck-sized object which blends into your household.


What are your thoughts about Google’s new feature? Do you like it? Do you find it scary? Will you use it? Comment below!

Thanks once again for reading the post! Don’t worry, I will post a more creative post soon!

Bhavik 🙂


Pictures: AlphrThe VergeDesignboom,

 

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20 thoughts on “Google Duplex: Is Google Taking It Too Far?

  1. I, for one, am amazed by this technology and think it can make life easier for a lot of people; such as those with social anxiety, those with disabilities, those with speech impediments or thick accents that often leave them anxious about making calls, and so forth.
    I watched this a few days ago in awe of the speech patterns and how natural it sounded. If I didn’t already know it wasn’t a person, I would never have guessed.

    People often forget that just because a new tech doesn’t interest them doesn’t mean it doesn’t help someone else.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You mention at the start you thought it was a prank at first. I’m still not convinced that this technology is all that it claims to be. The conversations just seem too-good-to-be-true and I tend to be pessimistic that it would perform so well out in the wild.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, there are areas where I haven’t wrapped my head around either, but after reading Google’s blog on it, I am slowly understanding how it is able to generate these types of phone calls. What also gives me confidence is that Google might start rolling it out in the summer meaning that they have tested it thoroughly already.

      Like

  3. Me too watched it with amazement! But progressing more towards with AI will never be a safer course. Take the series black mirror, westworld etc, As Elon musk said, AI must strictly be under the control of the Government. That which gives millions of benefit for us, would soon turn as threat to humankind. I don’t support AI.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the follow! I see your viewpoint on it. I also fear A.I especially if it can cause catastrophes but currently, there are ways for us to control it. We haven’t reached the point where everything we do is controlled with an artificial intelligence. If it can help us by doing day to day things, I am totally for it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As of now it is safer brother… as time progresses the AI industry will get complicated. Any complicated machinary would require much and much regulations and maintenance. The entire machinery can fall apart even if a small screw loosens (metaphorically). Looking in a broader view, I would say at some point there is a possibility that A country can buy somebody to turn AI against its rival. It is a far fetched thought. But I say if something like syria can happen today, definitely there is a possibility for this idea in future. In that process there is a higher possibility that giving more privileges to AI will become a threat for sure. After all we are humans and we err enormously! You and I may not live that long to see that. Our children will! AI is safer as long as it remains primitive. Anything more, then it goes out of our hand!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. To add to that comment, we will not stop at primitive AI! We always greed for more. And we will make AI superior. It’s better to kill it in this primitive state!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I watched the video before. But while reading this post, suddenly a thought came to my mind. If I say, kill somebody, will the Google Assistant setup a call with an assassin and make the deal?? This is surely a great leap for the technology. Great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey, it was just a funny thought that came to my mind. I have a feeling my comment is somehow sounding dumb than humorous. It made me google the robotics laws in the middle of the night.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. That is a far-fetched point, but sure, it should be able to 🙂 I am more concerned if it can help me break up with my someone! Thank for you for reading it!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m surprised that you don’t touch on what I see as the most obvious application of this technology: automated sales calls. I think that if — when — such things come on line we do need a law in place that says that they must announce themselves as ‘Google Assistant’, so that we humans know we can put the damn phone down on them without feeling rude about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you are totally correct for saying that and after I posted the post, I thought about that negative that it can have. I hope Google has a way to prevent this from happening. That is also why I rather have the assistant not announce that it is a robot calling, so that companies cannot exploit it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think this is a great idea for many people, as commenter SeeJayStark said. But it wouldn’t work for me. I’d just call the place, talk for like 2 minutes, and done. There’s no point for me there, though it could be useful for a lot of people.

    Liked by 1 person

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